Among Ruins


62 pages
ISBN 1-894469-04-6
DDC C811'.6





Reviewed by Thomas M.F. Gerry

Thomas M.F. Gerry is a professor of English at Laurentian University and
the editor of Arachne, Laurentian University’s bilingual
interdisciplinary journal of language and literature.


The second poem in this, Christopher Doda’s first collection of poems,
is “Nero.” “Rome burns under the hands of my fiddle,” it begins.
“There is no music for this that I cannot create.” As the poem
develops, Nero metamorphoses into Hitler during his final days, then
into an unnamed U.S. president reassuring TV viewers that riots in Los
Angeles are “confinable.” The speaker in the poem’s last section
could be any one of these three historical characters. The speaker tells
his wife that his “other women are calling and I listen because they
are not you.” He then predicts that his mistress, too, will leave him
“[w]hen these clumsy fingers no longer make music.”

“Among ruins” is where Doda locates the citizen in Western
civilization. Beginning with the book’s epigraph from
Proverbs—“Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man
are never satisfied”—he demonstrates not only that Western
civilization courts annihilation, but that poets and other observers
have always known and proclaimed this terrible fact. Although this theme
is not new, Doda’s articulations of it are often spine-tingling.

The poems subtly modulate among a gamut of styles—biblical,
classical, romantic, high modernist. Particularly effective is the
poet’s contemporary idiom, as found in “Taking Down Directions to
Hell.” The entire poem is imagined as a quotation, perhaps in the
plastic voice of an instructional tape. The language is at once banally
authoritarian and ironically self-conscious: on the bus to Hell, we are
soothingly advised, “Read an entertainment magazine / Or a cheap
thriller, imagining yourself / To be something else.”


Duda, Christopher., “Among Ruins,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,